On Jan. 24, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences announced its nominations for the 95th Annual Academy Awards. Among this year’s nominees is 2022’s breakout star Austin Butler, who earned his first Oscar nod for portraying Elvis Presley in the Baz Luhrmann-directed biopic "Elvis."
Hailing from Anaheim, California, Butler got his start starring on Disney Channel kids shows in the mid-2000s. More recently, he appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" as a member of the Manson Family, before fully breaking out last summer with the box office smash "Elvis."
With an Oscar nom to his name, and an upcoming role in "Dune: Part Two", Butler is a major star on the rise. But what chance does he have at winning acting’s top prize?
Butler Around +300 To Win Best Actor
While Oscar action is not currently available across New York sports betting, odds on the 95th Academy Awards are available in other territories. While it varies depending on where you look, Butler’s hypothetical odds are hovering around 3/1 (or +300 in American odds) to win the Best Actor category — suggesting oddsmakers think there’s a 25% chance of him winning.
Interestingly, a look at recent trends show that over the past decade (from 2013-2022) actors whose characters were based on real people have won 12 of the 40 possible acting awards.
That means historical figures are hitting at a 30% clip.
Based on this alone, there’s an argument to be made Butler should be priced closer to +233 (roughly 30% implied odds), so betting on him to win at +300 would be a positive expected value wager.
However at this time, Butler is not considered the favorite in this category. That would be Brendan Fraser, who has been touted as the expectant winner since the fall.
Hypothetical Odds On Best Actor Race
Don't Forget Colin Farrell
After starring in ‘90s hits like "Encino Man," "George of the Jungle," and, of course, "The Mummy," Fraser has been out of the limelight for most of the new millennium. But his comeback performance in "The Whale" has been widely heralded amongst critics, and just as the Oscars like to award actors playing historical figures, they also swoon over prosthetic-laden performers (in "The Whale," Fraser plays an obese shut-in).
But Butler’s biggest competition may actually be Colin Farrell, who shines in "The Banshees of Inisherin," playing a slightly dimwitted, albeit endearing, Irishman who cannot figure out why his bestie (played by Brendan Gleeson) no longer wants to join him for a pint at the local pub. Farrell, along with "Banshees" more generally, have been riding a groundswell of support among Oscar pundits since late last year.
This is also the long popular Farrell’s first nomination (in fact all five actors in this category are first time nominees), but he is a well-known veteran actor — unlike the relative newcomer Butler. This matters.
Oscar Winners Since 2013 Who Played Historical Figures
Three-Man Race Could Go Butler's Way
While the Best Actress category is well known to reward the “young ingenue,” Best Actor is almost exclusively reserved for Hollywood’s elder statesmen. In the 95-year history of the Oscars, the only performer to win Best Actor in their 20s was Adrien Brody in 2003, when he won for "The Pianist." Brody turned 30 less than a month later.
So Austin Butler, who is 31, wouldn’t be the youngest Best Actor winner, but it would be a definite outlier. On the other hand, portraying the King of Rock and Roll may give Butler an edge with Oscar voters.
We’ve already alluded to the impressive Oscar track record for performances based on real people, but there’s also a precedent for the Oscars to reward an actor portraying a beloved musical artist. Rami Malek won in 2018 for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, and before that Jamie Foxx took home a trophy for playing Ray Charles in 2003’s "Ray."
Ultimately, the winner will be decided by the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. But understanding the trends and kinds of performances (and performers) typically rewarded by the Academy gives us some clues into what way this notoriously fickle group may be leaning.
Though he may be an underdog, if history is any indication, Austin Butler’s Oscar chances have yet to leave the building.
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